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London 2012: Brittney Griner's Olympic Decision Should Be Respected, Not Rejected

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Brittney Griner removed herself from consideration to be included in the 2012 London Olympics on Thursday. In a very brief statement, she cited two things -

  1. School - and as a soon-to-be senior in college who opted out of the 2012 WNBA Draft to come back to Baylor, school must actually rank higher on her list than some believe. Whether it is forced by NCAA or WNBA criteria, Griner must continue to make grades and progress with her collegiate coursework.
  2. Family - her family's health, and her mother, in particular.

This seemed to cause an uproar on the interwebs.

How could she ever consider not going to the Olympics and representing her country??

She must be hiding something dubious!

I saw tweets and posts about her supposed steroid use and her fear to take drug tests. I saw pokes and jokes about the fact that she's afraid of genetic testing and that's why she doesn't want to play for the USA, because she's actually a man. I heard that there must be something untoward about her decision and the fact that I thought everything was on the up and up made me sound protective of her.


Settle down, people.

First, why does a collegiate athlete have to explain herself to the media, and the world, anyway? Because she's 6-8 and can dunk a basketball, something rarely seen in the women's ranks? Is that what makes her fall into the male or "steroid-user" classification? Or does she just not live up to society's traditional standards of beauty and thus people judge her as manly?

To the rumors of drugs - I ask for proof. Where? How? When? Is she crazy bulky or did she shoot up a foot in height overnight? Does she show signs of "roid rage" or any other manifestations that might influence your perception to see her as a drug user? Or do you just automatically assume that all phenomenal athletes must be juicing? If you answer no - which you should - then why even go there?

To the rumors of gender-bending - I can't believe that this legitimately even needs to be brought up. Griner didn't magically appear overnight as a women's basketball player out of the blue. Do you think a 6-foot-2 Marine-turned-deputy sheriff dad would willingly take his small son and raise him to be a female expecting him/her to be a virtual tower to his/her parents? Do you think her parents raised a genetically male child as a woman from birth because they just knew that their male child would achieve more success as a woman? In this day and age when women are still routinely discriminated against in society, in the workplace, across the globe? You've really got to be kidding me, if that's what you believe. Oh, you were just being funny? Well, I'm not laughing at you. And I'm certainly not taking a sip of your haterade.

Now back to her rationale of declining to be considered for this year's Olympics. The first thing I think you should remember is that she was not named to the final roster of 12 women that will compete in the Olympics. She did not get invited to play and then say no to the USOC. She was on a list of 21 very deserving candidates, as the sole college athlete. In fact, she was very grateful to even be included on that list. Team coach Geno Auriemma and the USA Basketball staff then pared the list down to 11 at the Women's Final Four in Denver, leaving one spot open.

Was it Griner's to be had? Maybe she was a slam dunk (no pun intended) for the final slot. Or maybe not. Maybe Geno would rather have one of the other nine candidates round out the team. Perhaps the selection would have gone to Kara Lawson or Cappie Pondexter, 2008 gold medal winners. Or Auriemma could have decided to stick with even more of the players he mentored through college in Asjha Jones or Renee Montgomery. Or he could have chosen one of the other five very talented women - Rebekkah Brunson, Candice Dupree, Lindsey Harding, Jayne Appel or Sophia Young - to round out the roster.

If you look at the roster, the strength of USA Women's Basketball and the original list of 21 names, this team's success doesn't hinge on the inclusion of Griner, not by a long shot. The four-time defending Olympic champions are stacked, as they have been for decades. The team is not going to be devastatingly hurt by not having a 6-8 college player on their roster. No matter who was slated to get the last invitation to the squad, Griner should not be vilified for refusing to represent her country, because that is just a false statement.

If you go back to her stated reasons, her summer school schedule was one of the items listed. Back in the olden days when I was in college I had to take summer school courses, and I wasn't an athlete required to maintain a certain grade-point average or have completed a specific number of hours to remain eligible. So then why is it unfathomable to believe that this might be something that is a serious issue for Griner?

Her second reason was the health of her family. Actually, two weeks ago she missed the John R. Wooden Award ceremony in Los Angeles. The reason cited at the awards ceremony - school. The reason that was released on the Wooden Award website - school. And also that she went to Houston to be with her sick mother. So maybe she's telling the truth, huh?

What illness is plaguing her mom, Sandra? I don't know. But I do know that Mrs. Griner was not in Denver for the Final Four to watch her daughter win the national title. She was not well enough for her daughter to pick up the most prestigious basketball award presented to a collegian on the west coast. So who is to say that she will be well enough for Brittney to devote her summer, her last as a student without summer obligations to the WNBA, to being abroad. What would you do if it was your sick mother?

I venture to say many of you would be compelled to make a similar decision as Brittney - skip the Olympics as a 21-year old, hope against hope to get the opportunity to play as a 25-year old and spend quality time with your family when they need you most.

A decision that I personally respect.